[first published 20th March 2012]
Things advance in some ways. Two weeks ago I made a short film of a coaching session I had with Simon Funnell. Forty minutes of one-handed drills are exhausting, and even using a lighter bat, 2lbs8oz instead of the 2lbs10oz one which I carried through last season, my right arm was exhausted by the end. You see, I’m not permitted to engage my left hand until the middle of April at best. This is frustrating in many ways, not least because I can’t bat properly nor practice behind the timbers at all. Methinks I’ll start the first game down the order and in the deep. Or scoring.
And for all this, at times I look utterly in control with one hand. Sunday’s nets were not, however, one of those times.
I was rooted to the spot, playing across the line (when I wasn’t missing the ball completely), and generally looking quite poor. Oddly, perhaps, the only two balls I hit solidly were propelled by our quick. I could hardly get bat on ball against the slower bowlers. This certainly makes me think about instinct and whether, in fact, I’m doing much better than I think. On video, I played pretty well … mostly straight/straightish, with bat and ball meeting at a pre-arranged point with some measure of certainty. On sunday, quite the opposite.
Are there ameliorating factors, I wonder? Well, on saturday I went bowling again, so my middle two fingers on my right hand were sore and stiff when I came to bat, and seeing as this is now my primary batting hand … tiredness was definitely a factor. When one’s grip goes, so does everything else. The second factor was the slowness of the bowling, which seems to give me too much time. Too much time to think, too much time to change my mind, yet perversely not enough time to play late, which is a necessity for me – let the ball do the work. I do make life difficult for myself, it seems.
Sunday was also my first session as a level two coach. And suddenly I seem to be expected to do some actual coaching. Which is fun, if nerve-wracking at times. And it’s more than apparent that there’s pressure on me to bat well – after all, if I’m to gain the respect of those I am to coach, being able to do it myself is a more than useful thing. No pressure, then …
Furthermore, I am more than aware that the season approaches with something akin to indecent haste. Under usual conditions, this would be a matter of great rejoicing, of anticipation. And so it is this season, but the anticipation is tinged with fear, and the faintly nagging suspicion that I will not be placed in position to which I have become accustomed, and that when I do begin to bat, it will be like last year, thrown in at no. 9, and, banished to the outfield, I’ll prowl the boundary wondering how I’m going to get the momentum going for what is likely to be a somewhat tricky season. Ho hum.
Cricket is a mind game. Last year I was utterly prepared to burst out of the traps with a flurry of runs. I recorded DNB for the first two matches, got an evil lifter which catches the shoulder of my bat and, as I’m batting no. 8, there’s a short midwicket, then DNB, then a 14 ball duck on a nasty wicket, falling to a short ball which rolls along the ground and hits me on the foot. Then I make 11 NO, the next game I drop a bat who makes 99, nick off from a very good ball and am well caught for 3 … then a shooter the bowler apologises for, then a bad, bad decision, then bowled when I ought to have pulled away. In my first eleven innings I make double figures twice. My season never recovered. To average 21 on sundays and 4 on saturdays pretty much says it all.
This year, I’m batting left-handed.